The Surprising Truth About How Many Employees Want To Keep Working From Home

There are plenty of companies that have already brought employees back to the office. Even more are getting ready to do just that, and more still are debating the right approach (i.e. stay remote or start bringing people into the office). But before your company decides on its approach, I want to offer some important data to help you decide.

A recent study from Publicis Sapient discovered that, when it comes to considerations about whether they’d like to return to their office, 80% of people said fear of contracting Covid-19 is their main concern when returning and commuting to the office. Meanwhile, 46% said they will not feel comfortable returning until a vaccine is available. If your company is strongly considering forcing all employees to return to the office in the next few months, I would respectfully suggest you take that data under advisement.

Relatedly, a recent study from Office Depot found that a majority of employers (86%) said they are letting their employees decide when they return to on-site work, and most support strategies that may keep their employees safer and healthier. While only 16% of employers plan on indefinite remote work, 67% support the strategy. Similarly, 67% of employers said they support a change in working hours and 64% supported implementing a dispersed (hybrid) workforce.

What all this data should tell you is that, while there are certainly employees who want to come back to the office, there is a fair amount anxiety about doing so, and smart companies are factoring those concerns into their decision-making.

It should also be noted that, for all the talk about employee burnout while working from home, a great many people have actually achieved a nice routine.

In the Leadership IQ study, The State Of Working From Home In 2020, we discovered that when asked about their ideal working situation, only 9% of employees said they want to work in an office all the time. The other 91% would like at least some time working from home, with 39% saying they’d like to work from home 3-4 days per week. And the Publicis Sapient study made similar discoveries, finding that 85% of people would prefer to continue working from home at least a few days of the week in the future.

My goal here is not to convince you that returning to the office is bad. Rather, I’m encouraging you to first, think about how many people truly need to come back to the office and second, assess how your employees feel before you make any rash decisions.

You can literally replicate all three of the studies I’ve cited above by surveying your specific workforce. There’s no reason why you can’t conduct a quick survey of every one of your employees to discover their readiness to return to the office. Alternatively, you can focus a little bit of effort on having every manager pose two questions to every single one of their employees.

Question #1: For you personally, what are the biggest benefits of coming back to the office?

Before your company starts making decisions about whether it’s better for employees to work from home or the office, you should probably ask them what they think are the benefits of coming to the office.

In the previously-mentioned Leadership IQ study about the state of working from home, we asked people for their biggest frustrations about working from home (which is just another way of asking what benefits people find coming into an office). The biggest open-ended response concerned having less interaction with their colleagues.

If you find similar results for your employees, it may be worth thinking hard about the format and duration of how you bring people into the office. For example, if the major benefit of being in an office is getting more colleague interaction, do you really need to be in the office five days a week, with much of that time working individually? Or should you consider having one or two days of dedicated interaction time with the remainder of the week spent working from home?

Question #2: For you personally, what are your biggest concerns about coming back to the office?

If you asked your employees this question, would their responses sound like the ones from Publicis Sapient, where 46% said they will not feel comfortable returning until a vaccine is available? Or are their concerns focused on commuting or childcare or something else? The point here is simply that it’s going to be incredibly tough to solve your employees’ biggest concerns until you know precisely what those concerns really are.

Here’s the bottom line: Whether you’re planning on having employees return to the office or keep working remotely, all of the data I’ve shared should give you a few different issues to ponder. And while you’re analyzing the data, I’d also suggest using the questions above to conduct your own data gathering operation.

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